The Art of Growing Up - Grades

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Lauren -

To some of us, good grades come naturally. For others, academic success is a reward reaped only after effort (and, sometimes, a lot of tears). Some of you will relate when I say I’m one of those annoying people who easily get good grades — I’m sure the rest of you are groaning or rolling your eyes. Don’t tune me out just yet, though! I still have plenty to say.

It’s not lost on most of us kids/teens that school is important; there has to be a reason we spend over a decade simply learning, right? Of course, I can recognize it’s important without loving it.  But when it comes down to it — whether you don’t study or spend hours studying —, I think myself and all you lovely readers can agree school has a purpose. If you think the purpose is a bright future, I wouldn’t disagree. If you think it’s mind-numbing torture, I also wouldn’t disagree with you. Your opinion is your own.

There’s been a lot of discussion regarding the American school system (and just school in general) in the last few years. The rise of social media and the resulting influencers has made people more outspoken, for better or for worse. A recently debated topic has been what school focuses on teaching and if it’s really useful to you in everyday life. There are of course the opposers (‘anti-school’ preachers, if you will), and those in favor of elementary through high school education.  While the former argue that school doesn’t teach you basic life skills, like paying taxes or mortgages, the latter say education is needed to start a worthwhile career.

Whenever I hear an opinion similar to the ones above, I always ask myself the same question: what does this person consider as successful? (I’m sure you’re wondering how this ties into grades. Don’t worry: I’ll get there.)

I grew up believing that the only path I could take after school was college. My parents never enforced the idea, so I think I decided this simply because it’s what everyone else did. The older I got, though, the more I actually learned about life after school. I learned that college is not only is it something you don’t have persue, but if you do continue your education, you have to pay for it. I have a lot to say about college and my perception of it, so much that I can write a whole other column on it, so I won’t bore you with the specific details.


But… what if you don’t want to go to college? Does that make your time in school useless?  And if it does, why even bother trying?

Well, here are two things I see as fact:

  1. School doesn’t always teach you useful practices, but it does teach you how to learn and interpret information, which is a skill you’ll need for the rest of your life.

  2. Everyone has their own definition of success.

All of us have to go to school. However, as Kayelona’s about to say below, what you put in is what you get out. If you put no effort into school, whether it be constantly late assignments, refusing to learn new concepts, or just not paying attention when you’re supposed to, you’re not doing yourself any good. Heck, you could get good grades, but that’s not really the point. At least, it isn’t in my mind.

Good grades are rewarding. You can look at an A in your coursework and see that your hard work paid off. But some of us work hard and still don’t see the benefits. Spending hours on homework or days deciphering a topic only to submit an assignment and have it come back as less than perfect… it’s a terrible feeling. And I think we’ve been trained to believe it makes us a failure. I’m here to tell you otherwise.

In my mind, good grades are not everything; they aren’t a reflection on how good of a student you are. If this idea sounds initially bizarre to you, let me paint a picture: there are two students in the same class. One answers the teacher’s questions and asks their own when they’re confused. They spend time on their assignments and submit them only when they’re ready. The other student doesn’t interact in class, they don’t ask questions when they’re confused, and they submit assignments after spending only mere minutes on them. What if the second student had a 95% score in the course, but the other one had a 90%? Does that 5% really make the second student a better student? Because to me, there’s no competition.

Kayelona -

Good grades are often something high school students strive for. At least that’s what I strive for. Each student performs differently in the classroom and that is nothing to ridicule, but good grades should be a priority. Believe me, I understand subject preferences. We’re all wired differently and we are good at various things. But because I am not mathematically inclined is not an excuse for a failing grade. In everything I do, even if I’m not great at it, my goal is to put my best foot forward with the intent to learn. Here in the RVA, our grades become personal, which is one of the reasons I love this school. We each take personal responsibility for our grades and overall high school career.

The most obvious answer: if higher education is your desire, grades will be an important factor while attempting to get in. Colleges will look at your academic performance often as a snapshot of your intellectual capability. If a higher education is not the step after high school, that’s cool too. But just because college isn’t in the cards doesn’t make grades any less important.

Education is a privilege that impacts our future. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again, “You get out what you put in.” If you work hard for good grades, you learn more and develop better skills pertaining to school, such as note-taking or time management. We as Americans have the privilege of an education and, although some useless stuff is taught, we still have a leg-up on many others.

I believe that good grades teach us hard work. Even if getting good grades is easy for some of us, you still have to work towards understanding and doing your best. You still have to take the time to study and do well. People often complain that education doesn’t teach us life skills. While I agree with some of the things they argue, they neglect that school can teach us organization, time management, hard work, etc.

I become proud of myself for earning a good grade that I worked for. It’s like the feeling when you finally sink your teeth into a fresh cookie that you made. I worked on the assignment I submitted and I feel accomplished that it was recognized, or even when a teacher gives me constructive criticism. Not that grades fuel my self-worth, but it makes me happy when I receive a grade I worked for.

Like I’ve said, I understand that not everyone performs the same in school. Just because some of us enjoy school with ease, that doesn't mean that others will. Work towards finding what you’re good at, academic and life wise, and do your best to excel.

Whether school is a place you thrive in or you just struggle through, setting personal goals regarding grades is important. I believe that so long as you do your best in every assignment and ask questions, you are succeeding. Attempting to understand is a huge step towards academic victory. All your teachers ask and what I hope you ask of yourself is to do your best.

Lauren -

Neither of us has really answered the age-old question: “Do good grades in school really matter?”. I don’t know about you, but when I was going through elementary school, I frequently heard that grades aren’t really applicable until you reach a certain age (generally, High school age.) I think this is supposed to relieve stress, but now that I’m older and looking back, I think it’s ultimately harmful.

Yes, grades matter, no matter how far along you are in your education. Grades matter because they reveal your work ethic. Your work ethic matters because you’ll need
good work ethic to get a job. You need a job because you need to support yourself. It’s a cycle that we’re all familiar with and recognize.

Notice that I didn’t say ‘good’ grades are important. As both myself and Kayelona mentioned above, good grades are oftentimes a reward for our hard work. But on the other hand, we also both said that some people put a lot of effort into schoolwork without necessarily seeing the results. So, what’s the middle ground, you might ask?

Words speak louder than anything, including numbers. You could be a student with a 2.5 GPA and 80% average score, but teachers may still have better things to say about you than the 3.9, 99.9999% ranking student.  Because, for the trillionth time, a letter grade or percentage doesn’t necessarily deem you as a good or bad student.

Kayelona -

I do find it interesting when Lauren says grades never mattered in elementary school because now that I look back, that is very true. We were taught to shovel all the stress little kids can feel onto the future. Because of that, the pressure to perform became suddenly real for many of us. Even though I remember as a kid working hard for good grades and becoming excited when I received all “A”s on my report card, the only stress I felt stemmed from myself. Now in high school, it seems that the pressure comes from every which way, and that becomes stressful.

I do agree with Lauren when she says grades, in general, are important. As we have both previously said, some of us are good at school, and others don’t thrive in the same way. We have also said that whichever category you land in is okay. In whatever way Lauren and I attempt to answer this quite difficult question, it is only applicable to individuals, in other words, it’s subjective.

Lauren’s comment about numbers not labeling people is something that rings true. As our country is evolving, so are the colleges. Admissions offices will look at their applicant as a person, not just their test scores. Don’t get me wrong, colleges will look at how you did academically, but they want to know who you are before they decide. They take a holistic approach to your application before saying yes or no, which is why colleges require essays. The higher education some of us work towards doesn’t label us solely by our GPA, so why do we?

Lauren -

Funnily enough, I still stressed out over grades and school as young child. I guess the logic of my older siblings and comforting parents didn’t have the effect they wanted it to. 😅 We really didn’t savor the years before function notation and cellular respiration, did we?

I think the moral of the story is that, while good grades look pretty on report cards and to Ivy-League schools, they definitely aren’t one-size-fits-all. My mom always told me that as long as I’m trying my best, I’m doing well in school. Sometimes I think we ALL — ‘good’ students, not-so-’good’ students, etc. —  need to take a step back and remember that.

Thanks for reading; see you next time!

K + L